Ever since launching a horrific assault on Ukraine, things haven’t been going particularly well for Russia. The country and its invading horde have been condemned, blacklisted, thwacked by crippling sanctions, droned, blocked, and told to go fuck themselves. Now, to top it all off, Russia appears to also be getting the digital stuffing knocked out of it by a cadre of avenging hackers.
On Thursday, the Russian government complained that many of its websites were facing an “unprecedented” blitzkrieg of cyberattacks, which has led to dysfunction and alarm throughout the country.
In addition to denial-of-service attacks that have knocked websites offline, many hackers are trolling the Russian government quite hard. In one case, someone defaced the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry—inscribing “Don’t believe Russian media — they lie” on its homepage, while inserting a link to what the hacker dubbed “full information about the war in Ukraine,” The Washington Post reports. At the same time, “dozens” of Russian judicial websites have reportedly been defaced with messages insulting Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine.
“We are recording unprecedented attacks on the websites of government authorities,” the agency said, further claiming that the incidents were “two to three times more powerful than the most serious incidents of this type previously recorded” and that users “may face short-term denials of access to some services” as a result.
Cyberattacks on Russian targets have strayed beyond mere trollish messages, however. On Wednesday, unknown hackers also leaked a 79 gigabyte tranche of emails from OMEGA, the research and development arm of Transneft, which is one of Russia’s largest state-controlled pipeline companies. The emails were released to the journalist collective Distributed Denial of Secrets, which has now begun to curate some of the material on their website.
Targets as diverse as the Russian Foreign Ministry, the financial giant Sberbank, and the Moscow Stock Exchange have all recently been targeted with disruptive, web-site-downing attacks.
As a protective measure, the Russian Digital Ministry now says that web connections to government websites will be “filtered”—a process whereby users outside the country will be barred from accessing the sites, Reuters reports.
So just who is doing all this hacking? The answer to that question is anybody’s guess, though—given the circumstances—there is a list of usual suspects.
Not long after war broke out in Ukraine, the hacktivist collective Anonymous effectively declared “war” on Russia. One of the alleged members of the group took to Twitter in February, claiming that they planned to launch a digital assault over Russia’s aggressive campaign:
Additionally, Ukraine has an “IT army,” according to multiple reports—a kind of volunteer reserve of hackers and technologists dedicated to defending the country from Russia’s brutal campaign. The Wall Street Journal recently claimed that the number of people involved could reach 400,000 or more. Could they be the ones causing all the trouble for Russia? Attribution in these cases is rarely clear but, whoever they are, they seem to be keeping pretty busy.